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Full text of "The battle off Worthing : why the invaders never got to Dorking; a prophecy. By a Captain of the Royal Navy"

Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 

ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 






Never Got to i irh' 





A CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL NAV 






LONDON LITERARY SOCIETY 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING; 




.*\ 
. \ 
K "\ \ 

THE 

BATTLE OFF WORTHING;. 



INVADERS NEVER . 

7Y? DORKING. /" " 



BY 

A CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL NAVY. 



LONDON : 
THE LONDON LITERARY SOCIETY, 

376, STRAND. 

1887. 



The Battle off Worthing; 

WHY THE INVADERS NEVER GOT TO DORKING. 



YES ! it is certainly more than an every 
year New Year's Day when we step from 
the Nineteenth into the Twentieth cen- 
tury, as we shall do at twelve o'clock 
to-night. A notch seems to be cut out 
in Time when a century is finished, 
particularly one so marked with peculiar 
and much-vaunted characteristics as the 
Nineteenth. It is not only a year, but a 
century, that we shall bury to-night. 

This thought sends my memory wander- 

B 



6 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

ing back into the past, particularly as 
regards our own country, and our narrow 
escape from annihilation. 

I have been indulging my humour by 
looking over some old newspapers and 
pamphlets, and amongst the latter I 
found an article, which was originally 
published in Blacltwood' s Magazine. I 
well remember the time of its appearing, 
the May number of 1871, a few weeks 
after the conclusion of the war between 
France and Prussia, and while Paris was 
still in the possession of the Eeds. 

It was in every way a remarkable 
pamphlet. Under the title of " The 
Battle of Dorking ; or, Eeminiscences of 
a Volunteer," it gave a most graphic 
account of a supposed invasion of England 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 7 

by the Prussians. Though generally 
condemned as visionary by the Press, a 
latent feeling of insecurity in the heart 
of the multitude caused it to have a great 
run. It was this pamphlet, I verily 
believe, which first stirred the national 
pulse. Everybody read it, and everybody 
spoke of it, for it was soon published in 
a cheaper form, half-a-crown being rather 
too much, in the opinion of those who 
were judges, to expect our islanders to 
pay for even so golden a warning. You 
can read the pamphlet yourselves, you 
can see how ably it is written, how all 
sensationalism is avoided, what an im- 
pression of reality pervades its pages, but 
the feeling you will not have, which was 
present in the hearts of many who read 



8 -THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

it in its day, was the terrible conviction, 
not only of the complete possibility of 
such an occurrence, but its great proba- 
bility. This latent dread was painfully 
strengthened, in many cases, by the 
personal experiences of those who, having 
lately travelled abroad as members of 
different ambulance corps, or for mere 
curiosity, had seen for themselves, in 
every individual of that successful race, 
the intense sense of superiority, mingled 
with aggressiveness, which marked the 
new-born German nationality, flushed as 
it was by successes that the world's 
history could not match. 

At the conclusion of the well-told tale 
of England's invasion, I, for one, felt 
my country to be more than half con- 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 9 

quered, when her invasion was even 
possible. Here lay the real bitterness, 
we were no longer true to ourselves, and 
all the grand panegyrics of our national 
greatness, spoken by poets and histor- 
ians, rose in my memory like spectres, 
for they were no longer applicable to the 
England of that day. To me, looking 
back, the preservation of our empire 
seems little short of a miracle. You 
press me to tell you my personal experi- 
ences of the invasion of England, how, 
in short, the enemy never got to Dork- 
ing. I am willing enough to accede, 
and tell my fireside story on New Year's 
Eve, of the time when the hearths and 
homes of England were endangered by 
folly at home, and foes abroad, since I 



10 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

am able also to tell how those homes 
were saved, never, I trust, again to be 
imperilled. 

I confess I am thankful enough to be 
rid of the nineteenth century, so superior 
as it was considered to any of its eigh- 
teen predecessors. It will be marked in 
the history of our country, by the wise 
historian, as that century which, while it 
has in the end added to her glory, 
during the greater number of its years, 
enervated and threatened to sap her very 
existence as a great Power; indeed, Eng- 
land saved herself by breaking with the 
spirit of the nineteenth, and reviving the 
more glorious days of bygone centuries. 
The first fifteen years of the nineteenth 
century were bloody enough, but in them 



THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 11 

old England at least played a glorious 
part. At the conclusion of peace the 
court of our aged king was crowded with 
crowned heads, paying homage by their 
presence to our national greatness. In 
those days we possessed statesmen, sol- 
diers, and sailors ; there was no lack of 
genius amongst us ; our country was safe 
while she brought forth such sons. We 
had our faults : we were bigoted and 
cruel towards the sister island, and had 
various other blots in our home, and 
perhaps our foreign, policy, but these 
were covered by our national prestige. 
A very different era in our history fol- 
lowed. We fell into a state of self-com- 
placency and apathy towards all but our 
commercial interest. A dearth of great 



12 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

men was apparent. England seeking to 
isolate herself from the world no longer 
produced sons fit to cope with it. Our 
rulers were men of comparatively small 
calibre, which would have been evident 
enough but for the fatal indifference 
which was upon the nation ; lulled by a 
false security, every step of our policy 
only added to our degradation and, at 
the same time, to our self-complacency. 

It would take too long to enumerate 
all the signs which, in the eyes of the 
few who were filled with salutary fears, 
foreboded the decay of our country. 
The most prominent were those to which 
I have just alluded, namely, the dearth 
of great men, and the national indiffer- 
ence. We have always been a bragging 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 13 

Power, but, in olden days, we had some- 
thing to brag about, while, at the time of 
which I speak, we had nothing, yet, at 
no period of our history, were we more 
self-laudatory, and more egotistically 
inclined to gloat over our neighbours' 
misfortunes and shortcomings. We soon 
became, in consequence, well hated on 
all sides, nor was this hatred towards us 
mingled with respect, for, while wilfully 
blind towards our weakness, we had 
made it apparent enough to Europe and 
the world at large. Englishmen abroad 
began to awaken unpleasantly to the fact 
that their nationality was no longer the 
same passport to civility and respect. 
We did not exactly like this, but still it 
did not impress us as it ought to have 



14 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

done. We hugged ourselves as we saw 
how other countries fought and bled, 
how dynasties were overthrown, how 
revolution spread on all sides, while old 
England alone looked on apparently 
unshaken, supplying arms with great 
impartiality, and patting revolution on 
the back everywhere, even in the sister 
island. We condoned the breaking of 
treaties we had sworn to uphold, and 
proclaimed aloud the deadly principle of 
non-intervention, our foreign policy thus 
becoming utterly unworthy of our position 
as a Great Power. 

It is true we often gave advice gratis,, 
and the English people subscribed munifi- 
cently to the funds for the sick and 
wounded on both sides. Indeed we gave 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 15 

to our own poor with the same mu- 
nificence or extravagance, squandering 
unheard of sums on them, without any 
perceptible improvement being effected 
by this largess ; for the lower classes 
continued to groan in a state of miserable 
pauperism, unknown in any other civi- 
lized nation, while we had colonies all 
over the world, with large tracts of land 
crying for labour to till it. We never 
understood how to treat our colonies, 
nor how to use them as outlets for our 
surplus population, and to make them a 
real source of strength to the mother 
country. The spirit of selfishness was 
the curse of England, and we did our 
best to disgust our colonies into leaving 
us, treating them as a father treats an 



16 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

illegitimate child in his anxiety to disown 
his offspring. If ever any colonial policy 
was penny- wise and pound-foolish, ours 
most certainly was so. I am not sure we 
were more religious or moral than our 
neighbours. Vice raged like a pestilence 
in our great cities, and statistics of some 
rural populations proved that female 
virtue in the lower classes was rare. Our 
literature abounded in rationalistic and 
irreligious works, and theories of the 
most startling and visionary kind were 
gravely read and favourably reviewed by 
our leading journals. 

To return to our foreign policy. We 
certainly no longer held our own in 
European councils ; on several occasions 
we had to eat very humble pie, bat this 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 17 

was, if nasty, at least cheap, and if we 
were told more or less politely to mind 
our own business, and our opinions w r ere 
held to be worthless, in general we w r ere 
most careful to announce beforehand 
that we had no intention of backing 
them. We had little concern with con- 
tinental affairs, 91* were we not surrounded 
by a certain Silver Streak ? 

This suicidal idea of isolation and non- 
intervention possessed the nation. We did 
not remember and we would not take to 
heart the words of that wise old scoun- 
drel, Bacon : That in this theatre of 
life it is reserved only for God and angels 
to be lookers on. 

In spite of our universal economy we 
pail a good lump sum for our army and 



18 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

navy ; and though our army, when com- 
pared to continental armies, was a mere 
handful, scarcely worth mentioning, our 
navy had always been a little superior to 
any one other in Europe, but, strange to 
say, we never contemplated the possibil- 
ity of our having two Powers against us, 
and finding ourselves without allies. And 
yet all this time a powerful nation was 
growing up in the centre of Europe, and 
we saw her power increase, but no warn- 
ing was conveyed to us by it. We were 
blind and deaf, we lived on our tradition, 
and the remembrance of our past glory 
seemed to us a sufficient answer to any 
doubt as to our present safety ; we were 
indeed showing symptoms of decay as a 
nation, and nothing but the shock we 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 19 

received could have saved us from our 
downward course. 

For years complaints had been rife in 
naval and military circles, concerning the 
supply of ordnance and other warlike 
materials to the army and navy. Public 
confidence in our ordnance department 
had, said the leading journal, been very 
severely shaken, and, looking to-day 
through files of old newspapers, I saw 
how freely complaints had found vent, 
complaints from general officers com- 
manding in presence of the enemy, 
respecting the inferior quality of the arms 
and ammunition supplied ; complaints 
from adepts, who considered our torpedo 
boats too small in size, and unseaworthy, 
and our gunboats deficient in speed. 



20 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

Indeed, our guns were bursting all over 
the world, and some of the most powerful 
ships in the British navy were, in conse- 
quence, placed for the time being liors. 

de combat. 

It was self-evident, that with so many 
novel inventions, both in vessels and 
arms, future warfare must inevitably be 
regarded in the light of one vast experi- 
ment, the result of which defied all 
ordinary rules of calculation. But this 
unavoidable risk, which our foe would 
also run on his side, was augmented a 
hundred fold on ours by faulty material 
and construction. Witness the numerous 
fatal accidents when vessels or arms were 
put on their trial, a trial which had all 
the advantage of taking place in time of 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 21 

peace, and not in the presence of an 
enemy. In fact, at the beginning of the 
life and death struggle in which we were 
afterwards engaged, so many failures and 
miscalculations occurred in our imple- 
ments of warfare, whether from bad 
founding, or want of practical knowledge 
in handling them, that we were driven, 
more or less, to fall back on what might 
relatively be called obsolete arms and 
tactics. Thus to a certain extent justi- 
fying a prophecy on which I had often 
ventured, that, in the event of our ever 
being engaged in a desperate and unequal 
war with other European nations, that 
at least in naval warfare, in spite of 
torpedoes, long range of guns, &c. t we 

should probably find safety and superior- 

c 



22 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

ity by engaging, as of old, at close 
quarters. 

It was little wonder that thoughtful 
and practical men looked forward with 
the deepest misgiving, and felt that, in 
case of a great war, Nelson himself could 
not save us from disaster. In his time 
our navy was double that of France, and 
beyond the combined navies of Europe. 
Added to this, as one evening paper 
pertinently remarked, "Our Admiralty 
had a way of taking English ships at 
what they ought to be, which was 
decidedly misleading, and in consequence 
the official returns of English and foreign 
navies gave quite an erroneous idea as to 
the relative strength of England and her 
rivals/' 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 23 

All these sinister rumours recalled un- 
pleasantly the shrieks sent up by our 
neighbour at like discoveries, but made 
too late : Nous sommes traliis ! Nous 
sommes traliis ! For France at the time 
of her invasion had a magnificent army, 
thoroughly equipped on paper but not 
in fact. 

Severely as I have exposed our weak- 
ness and our sins, do not think that I 
was not, even then, proud of our many 
good qualities, which were I knew 
obscured, but not destroyed. No, my 
eyes fill with tears of pride when I 
think how nobly we have redeemed our 
faults, and how gloriously we shook off 
our fatal apathy, when we awakened to 
our danger; how we discarded our old 



24 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

foibles and trod them under foot. The 
hour of national danger was the harbinger 
of our national regeneration, and by 
(rod's blessing we are now the happy and 
glorious country we once fondly but 
falsely imagined ourselves to be. 

Under the comfortable impression that 
England was safe and happy behind the 
Silver Streak, with which a kind provi- 
dence had surrounded this favoured child, 
even whilst the Franco-German war raged 
under our very eyes, we took little or no 
interest in the national defence. I re- 
member some honourable member intro- 
ducing a motion on this question, during 
which the house was counted out ! I was 
no great politician, but that small fact 
made a great impression on me at the 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 25 

time. I felt that a nation so indifferent to 
its own safety could scarcely escape some 
disaster. 

Peace being concluded, reduction on 
reduction was the order of the day with 
us, our M.P.'s were nearly all pledged to 
this course, and local interests were in 
their eyes of more importance than public' 
safety. We would not keep a look out 
for rocks ahead; our rulers were hlind, 
and the country spell-bound. Nationally 
and individually we trusted to the chap- 
ter of accidents, and had to bear the 
consequences. 

Our awakening was rude enough. It 
was not through the gradual alarm of 
rumour. While pressed by serious domes- 
tic troubles in Ireland, one fine morning 



26 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

all England awoke to learn that a formid- 
able alliance had cast its gauntlet at our 
feet. The basis of the triple alliance was 
stated with a simple positiveness that 
meant mischief. The Eastern question 
was settled at our expense, while a pro- 
posed partitionment of Northern Europe 
gave Germany the sea-board she had so 
long coveted, of which France also had 
her slice. 

The event is so recent that a very few 
words will serve to recall how, shortly 
before the outbreak of war, the Eastern 
question had been suddenly re-opened 
by one of those bursts of spontaneous 
national feeling, which from time to time 
defy the calculations of the most ex- 
perienced diplomatists. This burst of 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 27 

enthusiasm, anti-Eussian in sentiment, 
was the insignificant origin of a war that 
shook the foundations, not only of 
Europe, but of the whole civilized world. 
I, and probably many others, had 
frequently indulged in speculating on the 
possible complications that might arise 
from old standing sources of discord, and 
international jealousies, but had any man, 
one month before the outbreak of war, 
ventured seriously to forecast the sides 
on which the Great Powers were actually 
ranged, he would have been taken for a 
dreamer. It recalled to my mind an 
ominous Spanish saying : God protect 
us when Herods and Pilates make friends. 
For the most striking feature of the 
situation was certainly the new depar- 



28 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

ture taken in politics, traditional diplo- 
macy seemed flung to the winds. 

It is impossible to describe the indig- 
nation which in a few hours set ali 
England in a blaze. No Government 
could have calmed the indignant voice of 
the nation, roused as it had not been for 
many a year. The Mediterranean fleet 
was at once largely reinforced and sent 
to the Dardanelles, under the command 
of one of our royal dukes, while a wild 
cry of " Arm ! arm ! " went through the 
land. The'lion awoke, and shaking him- 
self, gazed round to measure his re- 
sources with those of the newly revealed 
foes. The national excitement, and 
the exigencies of the moment, forced 
an ultimatum from our Government 



THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 29 

which was sent to the allied Powers. 
Almost simultaneously with the des- 
patch of our note, we received news from 
America that the Fenians were massing 
in considerable numbers on the borders 
of Canada; while several fillibustering 
expeditions were fitting out, whose 
rumoured destinations were severally 
Ireland, and our West Indian islands. 
Our remonstrance flashed along the wires 
of the Atlantic cable, and Canada and 
the West Indies sent over their cry for 
help. Ten ships, and 15,000 troops were 
at once despatched to their assistance. 
The rejection of our ultimatum by the 
Allied Powers arrived before we had 
time to realize our situation ; the same 
day tidings reached us that the French 



30 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

and German troops had entered Belgium, 
the Belgian army retreating on Antwerp. 

There was never any question as to 
our rejoinder, all question of pounds, 
shillings and pence was cast to the 
winds, and England joined as one man 
in the action of the Government, when 
war was declared against the triple 
alliance. From the half-hearted allies 
left to us, we had no hope of adequate 
assistance. Austria had her own hands 
full. Italy, Spain, and Scandinavia, 
hemmed in hy our powerful foes, were of 
little avail to us, neither had we time to 
concert on means of defence with them. 
We had a powerful though untried fleet, 
but not a ship to spare. 

Oar first move was to send a strong 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 31 

fleet to the Scheldt ; tidings coming to 
us meanwhile that all our merchantmen 
in the Elbe, Baltic, and French ports 
were detained, while troops were massing 
on the sea-board from Hamburg to Brest, 
we having fortunately been in time to 
secure the Scheldt. 

The Eussian fleet not having sailed for 
the Mediterranean, had joined that of 
the Germans ; the French Mediterranean 
fleet had passed Gibraltar, conveying a 
large fleet of merchant steamers. As 
our sole remaining squadrons were sever- 
ally occupied in watching the Russian 
and German fleets off Heligoland, and 
the French fleet at Cherbourg, we were 
unable to intercept them. After this all 
news ceased ; the nation became a prey 



32 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

to most painful anxiety. One thing 
alone was certain, a descent on our coast 
was threatened in two or more directions. 

My own story begins at this period. 
I was, as you know r , a retired officer of 
her Majesty's Navy, residing at that time 
in London. You may easily imagine the 
keen anxiety I felt to take part in the 
impending struggle. I went at once to 
the Admiralty, and put my name down 
for active employment. There I learnt r 
to my disgust, that the active list was not 
yet exhausted, so there was nothing for 
it but to wait my time. 

I wandered down to the " Bag," and 
read greedily all the news I could gather. 
Both Houses were to meet that night. 
By a piece of good fortune I came across 



THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHIXG. 33 

a member whom I knew, who took me 
down to the House with him, and, by 
his friendly aid, I found myself in the 
already crowded gallery. 

The interest of the assembly did not 
centre on the able speech of the Premier, 
though the firmness of its tone, and the 
occasional flashes of eloquence, elicted 
some approval. 

The speech of the evening was made 
by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He 
rose amid cheers, not, however, very 
hearty ones, and I remember thinking at 
the time, that the minds of members were 
probably more full of what we had done, 
and ought to be able to do, as a naval 
power, than of confidence in what we 
should do. The first portion of the 



34 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

speech consisted of a statement of our 
naval resources, which was far from 
encouraging. It had heen the intention 
of the Admiralty to build a large number 
of gunboats, of a most efficient kind. 
Eight had, in fact, already been built,, 
and ten more laid down; which were not, 
unfortunately, available in this emer- 
gency. Of our ironclad fleet, ten were 
in the Mediterranean, seven in North 
America and the West Indies, and five 
in other parts of the world, thus leaving 
only twenty-three available for our home 
defence. These again were sub-divided 
into two squadrons ; one in the North 
Sea kept watch on the coast of Holland 
and Germany, from the Scheldt to 
Heligoland, the Scheldt being our head- 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 35 

quarters ; the second was the channel 
fleet, which would defend our south coast 
and look out for the French fleet. 

This force was not so large as could 
be desired. Some old screw-liners and 
frigates had already been armed, and were 
now being manned by the coast guard 
and naval reserve, to form a second line 
of defence for the protection of our 
coasts. Steamers of great speed had been 
sent in all directions, with orders to keep 
a vigilant look out for any hostile force, 
which would enable us to put our land 
forces in motion towards the threatened 
spot. 

It was evident to all that we were not 
so strong on our own element as we 
ought to be. We possessed, it was true, 



36 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

a powerful fleet, but half were absent in 
various parts of the world, and could not 
possibly take part in this death struggle. 
Hoodwinked and deceived by the Kus- 
sians, we had despatched a fleet to the 
Dardanelles to cope with a fleet which 
was almost on our coast. Liners would 
be knocked to pieces by ironclads, and 
could not operate at all in shoal water, 
while few or no gunboats were available. 
The depression of the House was very 
palpable, and a slight break in the First 
Lord's speech which took place at this 
time made it all the more apparent. No 
cheers broke on the momentary pause, 
there was a blank feeling in every breast, 
in such a crisis something extraordinary 
was called for, some stroke of genius to 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 37 

impart confidence in the universal alarm. 
The First Lord looked round, and I 
was struck at the time, and have remem- 
bered ever since with respect, how he 
rose to the difficulties of the occasion. He 
took in the temper of the House, indeed 
the uneasiness was so evident and 
general that it made itself known with- 
out a word being spoken. He at once 
alluded to this in terms of sympathy, the 
situation was very grave, nor could he 
say with truth that we were properly 

prepared for the impending struggle. 
7 \ 

He for one did not wish to shirk his 

share of the blame, while at the same 
time he expressed his opinion that it 
was not more due to individuals 

than the country at large, which had 

D 



38 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

clamoured for economy, and approved of 
a dangerous inadequacy of defence. 
This was, however, no time for Govern- 
ment to recriminate on the country, or 
the country to recriminate on Govern- 
ment ; if England were to be saved it 
must be by speedy action, and by seizing 
on the weakest point of attack of our 
threatened invaders, which he believed 
was laid bare on their passage from their 
ships to the shore. Here the increased 
earnestness of the speaker's manner, 
and the anticipation of some original 
scheme of defence at once rivetted the 
attention of the House. He continued : 
" Troops had been known to disembark 
imopposed, and also when opposed from 
the shore, but never when attacked at 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 39 

the place of landing by vessels afloat. 
The panic which must ensue from an 
active attack of armed gunboats, steam 
launches, and other small steamers, on 
crowded boats, flats, or rafts, employed 
for disembarkation, would effectually stop 
any such landing, and compel the enemy 
to retreat." 

He compared an armed steamer, draw- 
ing little water, when attacking a string 
of boats full of troops, to a dog-fish 
amongst a shoal of herrings, or a dolphin 
in the midst of flying fish. 

" Three hundred steam launches could 
be turned out in a few days ; boats with 
engines would be used to save time, 
having moveable rifle proof plates to pro- 
tect the men from musketry, and carrying 



40 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

a gun in the bows, capable of firing shot, 
shell and grape into the landing forces. 
Field pieces, howitzers, or even old 
carronades, would serve the purpose, no 
delay need therefore occur, as any small 
engines could be used, and half the num- 
ber were already in existence. Small 
steamers, tugs, &c., were being taken up 
by the Government, to be armed with 
guns of some sort or other, the larger 
ones were to be covered with chain 
cables outside, instead of armour plates. 

Retired officers of the Navy would be 

HI 
appointed to command these boats, and 

empowered to raise volunteers along the 
coast to man them. These three hundred j 
steam launches could be beached any- j 
where and easily launched in fine weather, 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 41 

and of course no enemy could land or would 
attempt to do so, unless the sea were 
smooth. Stationed at a distance of three 
miles apart, these launches would defend 
nine hundred miles of coast, while armed 
tugs and small steamers would be distrib- 
uted in every harbour or roadstead, and 
a line of telegraph wires at once erected 
along the coast to rendezvous the 
launches, &c., at any given point. Finally 
a few men-of-war steamers, drawing the 
least water, would be in readiness, at 
different ports, to operate against the 
transports, and complete their discom- 
fiture by running them down." 

" It is useless," he went on to say, " to 
deny that by unforeseen combination, we 
find ourselves at this moment in imminent 



42 THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

danger. We are outnumbered by land 
and by sea, and have no time to fully 
utilize our strong natural advantages, but 
awakened to the full peril of this crisis, 
and our sense of false security rudely 
dispelled, let the indomitable spirit of 
our English nation assert itself, and we 
may once more defy the world ! 

" ' Let us be back'd with God and with the seas, 
Which He hath given for fence impregnable, 
And with their helps, only defend ourselves ; 
In them, and in ourselves, our safety lies.' ' 

I shall never forget the ringing cheers 
which, repeated again and again, followed 
this speech ; the spirit of the House had 
risen at once on the announcement of 
this sensible and practicable scheme, 
and was wound up by the few last words 
and the apt quotation, to a pitch of 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 43 

enthusiasm equal to their former depres- 
sion. A gleam of hope, a vision of 
deliverance was present in every breast. 

Next morning a notice was published 
in the papers to all retired officers to 
present themselves at the Admirality. I 

started off at once, put in my papers, and 

I')/ ' 
l\ |f after waiting some hours, received a 

" i f' 1 

commission to command steam launch 

No. 66, ordered at Messrs. 's yard, 

Blackwall, to form one of the 10th 
Division, South Coast ; my own station 
being between Worthing and Little- 
hampton. 

I was ordered to raise a crew of fifteen 

i (' 

men in my district and one engineer, to 

take them to Woolwich for some slight 

gunner^ ; " ^ A action on board the flag 

i 



44 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

ship, while I superintended the fitting of 
my launch, and on its delivery to steam 
round to my station, haul her up on the 
beach, and report myself to the com- 
mander of the 10th Division at Shore- 
ham, and ohey his orders. I hastily 
packed a small portmanteau, bade 
farewell to my family, and arrived at 
Worthing that evening. 

No beating up of volunteers was need- 
ed, the papers had carried the news, and 
I found the station crowded with strap- 
ping fellows who, seeing my uniform, 
eagerly offered themselves. I filled up my 
list, and started off next morning for 
Woolwich with my men, who set to work 
at once at the mysteries of gun drill. Good 
boatsmen they already were, so there was 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 45 

not so much to learn. I obtained the 
requisite stores, and as my boat was al- 
ready built, and only required fitting 
/ with engines and rifle plates, shipped on 
the gunwale and removable when not in 
action, the evening of the third day found 
us under sail and steam for our station. 
I had to accept whatever gun I could 
get, and a 12-lb Howitzer fell to my lot. 
On our arrival a party of stout fellows 
hauled us on to the beach. The men 
pitched a tent we had brought round, and I 
set the watch, and at once started off for 
orders. 

The instructions given me were plain 
enough : My boat was to be kept ready 
for launching at a moment's notice ; 
private signals were given to me, and 



46 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 




general directions as to my line of condu 

. 

in action. The launches were stationepam 
three miles apart, and in fine weathi the 
alternate boats were to be launched, an|om-< 
row, or rather steam, guard, during tl ore 
night from 10 p.m. till day-light. stil] 

I sent off next morning for papers, aifcadt 
it was very cheering to see how good tm at 
public spirit was. Volunteers were flockin 
to their respective camps, and the wholeed- 
nation was aroused. The papers mer^anc 1 
tioned, as a rumour, that the enemy's 

fleet was moving and our North Sea 

v- 
fleet preparing to engage them. 

In the evening, as it was not our guard ? 
I walked down to the station, which was 
not more than two miles off, in the hope 
of hearing later news. My way was in 

J 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 47 

/f sight of the sea all along. I tried to 
think calmly over the incidents of the 
last few days. I had been so busy my 
mind so employed that it all seemed like 
a dream now that I had time to think 
at all. 

The quiet autumnal night, the sweet 
country air, freshened by the smell of 
the sea (which I remember was unusally 
strong at Worthing, on account of the 
quantity of sea-weed strewn along the 
shore), soothed my senses, and I felt that 
I could now view the situation, without 
the excitement of action, which had 
possessed me hitherto. 

Was it possible, I thought, that this 
dear land of ours was at this moment in 
such jeopardy? In danger actually of 



48 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

being overrun by foes, who would sachet 
our homes, and insult our relations ? It;d 
was too dreadful to think how the hearfor 
of all England would be broken by the .d 
presence of a victorious and insolent ) 
soldiery. I could not realize such horrors, 
and tried to turn my mind away ; but I 
knew that our fleet was out-numbered, 
and that, in these days of steam and 

armour, our once formidable superiomT f jV 

V 
in seamanship would be of small avai] ^ 

An action would be decided by superid )r 

'a 

weight and numbers, and a German o ^ 

French sailor was almost as good a m an 

behind his iron screen as a British / rp ar> 

As to our Army, supposing a la' , 

were effected ? I believed our trod -. n f 

(as i 

the line to be the best in the worH 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 49 

the Militia had little drill or discipline, 
and the Volunteers ? Well, no doubt 
they would fight like men, but only a, 
few months previously a review had been 
held, in which about 20,000 Volunteers 
took part, and the report of the General 
in command was given shortly after- 
wards. His words came with painful 
clearness to my memory, ''Notwithstand- 
ing a very simple field day, there were 
grave errors in the positions taken up ; 
and had it been in actual warfare, whole 
brigades would have been utterly annihil- 
ated in a few minutes." This was the 
force which might shortly be opposed to 
veteran troops; these officers in command, 
who could not take up a position correctly, 
to the most precise and educated soldiers 



50 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

Europe had ever seen ! My ruminations 
were not cheering ; I could only shake 
them off by a fervent, " God forbid that 
an enemy should ever land ! " 

Now that I was engaged on it, it 
seemed to me incredible that this 
simple line of coast defence should never 
have been originated before ; it was so 
English not to have contemplated the 
idea of striking a man until his coat was 
off, and he was quite ready for you to 
come on. 

Why, indeed, had we not made better 
preparations, while now we were com- 
pelled to make shift with a scratch lot of 
boats ? As to light draft armour-plated 
rams, which would have been most 
effective, we had none. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 51 

While these thoughts were passing 
through my mind, I took a short cut 
through some fields, and came across an 
old farm house and yard ; it was very quiet, 
and presented a somewhat deserted ap- 
pearance, but the farmer's wife passed 
frequently in and out of the house as I 
was approaching, and I saw the old 
farmer himself standing silently before 
an empty horse-shed. It was evident 
enough, as I afterwards learnt from him, 
that his team had been impressed by the 
Coast Artillery, in which corps his two 
sons were also serving. He was well 
satisfied that he and his were able 
to aid in the defence of the land, but I 
remember the pensive look of the old 
fellow, as he stood silently gazing at the 



52 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

empty stalls, before he saw me coming up. 
The farm lads were all gone, and he and 
his " missus " were going to remain to look 
after the pigs and fowls. He did not 
believe " they Frenchmen would land." 
The invaders were all the traditional 
Frenchmen with him. He was eighty-two 
years old, and remembered when Boney 
was coming, " but Boney never did come, 
and it wasn't in reason that they others," 
with a jerk of his thumb seawards, "would 
come either." He was a Sussex man, he 
said, and they could not make him believe 
that any " footy " Frenchman would ever 
land on our shore. I told him that I hoped 
not, quite as heartily as he did, but if 
they did, he would have time to clear 
out, and drive his stock away. The old 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 53 

fellow got very indignant at this sug- 
gestion. He had an old gun (with a flint 
lock I believe), into which he intended 
to put a double charge, to shoot the first 
Frenchman who came near his house, 
but budge he would not. With un- 
pleasant reminiscences of the shooting of 
peasants that had taken place across the 
Channel, I told him he would most cer- 
tainly be shot or hanged, but he received 
my warning with renewed indignation. 
An Englishman's house was his castle, as 
all the world knew; no jury would convict 
him for defending it ; that could not be 
against the law. I walked on, leaving the 
fine old fellow shaking his head, and 
muttering to himself. I wondered 

whether his grey hairs would save his 

E 



54 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

life, should the enemy land, for the old 
man would certainly have had his shot 
at the foe, however unsteady his aim 
might he. 

I soon arrived at the station. Tele- 
grams had arrived from Harwich. All 
yesterday our Fleet had been engaged 
with the enemy; one German ironclad 
had been sunk, and another had made 
for the land, on fire, and evidently sink- 
ing. Swift despatch boats were taking 
the news from the Fleet to Harwich. No 
Russians had been engaged or seen. 
The action was off the Texel, farther 
west than I liked; however, the news 
was good, and I had a cheery chat with 
the station-master about it. He promised 
to let me hear all news at once, as he 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 55 

had engaged several lads to carry mes- 
sages and telegrams. 

I walked back, and found my men 
smoking their pipes, and preparing to 
turn in. I told my news, which delight- 
ed them all very much. I am afraid we 
all bragged a good deal about the poor 
chance any fleet had with ours. I 
thought the time a good one to get an 
insight into the character of my men, 
and so encouraged them to talk, and 
found much entertainment in their odd 
sayings. They were nearly all boatmen, 
or at all events, well accustomed to boat 
work, and looked upon it as quite natural 
that " the Queen " (as they put it) 
should have thought of them as the best 
defence for the coast. They knew what 



56 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

it was to get a lot of landsmen ashore 
out of a boat, and quite revelled at the 
idea of being in among them under these 
trying circumstances. Being Sussex 
men, the history of attempted invasions 
was familiar enough to them ; successful 
invasion was, by the same traditional 
teaching, an impossibility in their eyes. 
From childhood they had spelt over the 
old tablet in the parish church, to the 
memory of one who, in his day had 
struck a good blow for old England. 
"What time the French sought to have sacked 

Sea Foord, 
This Pelham did re-pel 'em back aboord." 

They were all Pelhams in spirit ; a fine, 
manly set of fellows, rather inclined to 
be too independent, but I hinted that 



THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHJNG. 57 

the least breach of discipline would be 
visited by simply sending them home. I 
could soon replace them. This threat 
was quite sufficient to keep them steady 
and obedient. 

Next morning's papers were full of 
confidence and congratulations. The 
country was safe, our Fleet had proved 
true to its glorious traditions, and al- 
though attacked by superior force, had 
gained a victory which would prove the 
precursor of many others. 

Six ironclads from the Mediterranean 
fleet were ordered home at once, and five 
others on the North American station 
had been relieved by wooden vessels ; all 
these would shortly be home. 

The second editions announced that 



58 THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

great confidence had ensued from the 
news ; the funds had gone up to 70 (they 
had been as low as 55) ; bells were every- 
where ringing merry peals. 

The third edition brought news of the 
Channel Squadron on the coast of France, 
consisting of ten ironclads and several 
wooden steam frigates. The main fleet was 
off Cherbourg ; a flying squadron of 
wooden frigates cruising off Brest. The 
chief news was the entry of the French 
fleet from the Mediterranean into Brest. 
The merchant vessels were convoyed by 
five ironclads and several wooden men of 
war. Our flying squadron had made a 
gallant attack on their rear. One frigate, 
the Audacieuse, and six large mer- 
chant steamers had been cut off and 



THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 59 

captured. Unfortunately we had to 
destroy our prizes on the advance of 
some of the enemy's ironclads to the 
rescue. However, all was very glorious. 
The frigate, Undaunted, had run up along- 
side the Audacieuse of equal force, and, 
after a heavy hammer- and-tongs pound- 
ing for twenty minutes, carried her by 
boarding. The old English ensign had 
been hoisted over the tricolour. It was 
hard to have to set fire to and abandon 
her. 

This news sent the whole country 
downright mad with joy ; it was the old 
tradition again, the old times of the Vic- 
tory returned. More was thought of this 
little action than of the far more impor- 
tant one in the North Sea. The other 



60 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

six frigates were also engaged, and had 
driven off the French rear-guard, but as 
my men observed, the saucy Undaunted 
had had the Audacieuse all to her own 
cheek, and had knocked "seven bells" 
out of her. 

To add to our sense of security, the 
glass had been going down for the last 
few hours, and towards evening a strong 
blow set in from W. S. W. No guard 
was kept afloat that night in consequence, 
as we were quite assured against any 
attempt to land. 

The evening papers announced the 
theatres open in London, where national 
songs formed part of the programme, 
and public buildings were hastily prepar- 
ing to illuminate. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 61 

I do not pretend that I did not share y 
to a certain extent, in the general elation r 
but I did not feel comfortable notwith- 
standing. I could not help feeling that 
we were over-matched, and that this 
success might only prove a respite to 
disaster. 

The Germans had fifteen ironclads, 
the French about twenty-three in the 
Channel, the Eussian Baltic fleet about 
twelve more, and where were they ? Our 
ironclads numbered twenty-three, of these 
thirteen were in the North Sea, and ten 
off Cherbourg. If the crisis could only 
be staved off until the arrival of others 
from America and the Mediterranean, 
eleven sail in all, we might yet do welL 

But, alas ! our enemies were no fools, 



62 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

they would make no unnecessary delay ; 
and then, where were those "infernal 
Eussians " ? To me they embodied the 
secret, and therefore the most dreaded 
danger. 

By next morning the wind and sea had 
heen heaten down hy a storm of rain and 
hail which took place during the night ; 
we had fine weather again, with light air 
from the eastward. I must tell you that 
it was the middle of August, and a Satur- 
day, the two engagements mentioned 
having taking place on Wednesday. 

As we could no longer obtain any 
telegraphic news from the Continent, we 
were made sensible of the fact that we 
were surrounded by water, and had 
drawn up our bridges. 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 63 

The morning papers brought intelli- 
gence that the news of our successes at 
sea had been received in America, and a 
good effect produced. The United 
States government had seized on the 
filibustering steamers that were fitting 
out in the south, and the States Marshal 
had called on the Fenians to disperse. 
They replied by crossing the frontier, 
and were received by the Canadian Mil- 
itia and one contingent of the line who 
routed them completely. Without any 
discipline they soon became a panic- 
stricken, flying mob. 

Success is a wonderful negociator, and 
America became at once, very civil and 
sympathetic with the old country, and 
announced their intention not to press us 



64 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

in our present difficulties. I believe the 
old feeling of kinship was at the bottom 
of it, and that they did not like to see the 
Britisher whipped by anyone but them- 
selves. 

Last night Her Majesty had gone 
to the theatre, and had read out the 

brief despatch from off Brest, from the 
royal box, like her grandfather used to 
do in the old days. After storms of 
cheering the curtain rose; "God save the 
Queen " was sung by all the company, 
followed by "Bule Britannia," and "Brit- 
ons strike home," the whole audience 
joining in the choruses. The Prince of 
Wales had done the same at another 
theatre, and received a similar ovation. 
Eor one brief interval all England was 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 65 

intoxicated, the cup of triumph seemed 
already at our lips. It was not to last. 
About dinner-time a messenger arrived 
from my friend the station-master: "Some 
bad news had been received, particulars 
not yet known, fearful depression in 
town, panic on 'Change ; the news was 
connected with the North Sea." 
An hour after we learnt the worst. 
The East coast of England was threat- 
ened, a junction had been effected be- 
tween the Russian and German fleets, 
heavy engagements were taking place, 
our fleet retreating, fighting, on the 
Scheldt, attacked from the north and 
west, and cut off from the Channel. One 
ironclad had been dismantled, and, with 
disabled screw, was towed in under cover of 



66 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

other vessels. Transports, supposed to con- 
tain the German army, had been sighted 
standing north, and protected by a lot of 
gunboats and vessels of war. 

Later news told us what a great panic 
had ensued on the morning's joy and 
confidence. The Eastern Army Corps 
had broken up camp, and was marching 
on the coast. The Prince of Wales had 
joined his regiment, and was on his way 
to the coast, the Queen waving them 
farewell from Buckingham Palace. A 
sort of grim determination began to 
settle on everyone. The tug of war was 
indeed at hand. 

A Government report was published in 
the papers on the progress of our coast 
defence. All was going on satisfactorily. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 67 

Besides the wooden men-of-war, and gun- 
boats of the Eoyal Navy, we had now 
two hundred and fifty steam launches 
ready and at their posts, a hundred and 
ten tugs and small steamers were man- 
ned, armed and protected with chain 
cables. They would make very efficient 
gun-boats, and their number was daily 
increasing. They were all manned by 
volunteers, and stationed at the small 
harbours about the coast ; those near the 
Thames were manned by Thames water- 
men, who came forward to a man, 
Trinity pilots being in the larger vessels. 
All lights, buoys, &c., were being 
hastily removed. The Public were ex- 
horted not to despair, the enemy having 
by no means landed as yet. The East 



68 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

coast had been especially armed, but the 
Government had not neglected other 
parts. 

I have said that it was Saturday. When 
evening came, we prepared to launch our 
boat at high water. The men had made 
ways of wood, which they had well covered 
with the plentiful sea-weed ; the anchor 
was laid out, and everything in readiness. 
The night was fine but misty, and the 
sea smooth. It would be high water about 
seven o'clock, and I intended getting 
afloat at that hour, as it was our turn to 
take guard, not having been able to do 
so the previous night in consequence of 
the rough weather. 

Just before launching, our Divisional 
Commander came round on horseback. I 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 69 

knew him very well, we had heen mess- 
mates years hefore ; he was a good officer, 
and a capital fellow. As we shook hands, 
he told me he had come round to order 
all the boats to keep afloat during the 
night as near their station as they could, 
except the guard hoat for the night, which 
was to steam out seaward, and return to 
her station at daylight. He told me that 
vague news had arrived that the enemy 
was on the East coast, and that some of 
our gunboats had been engaged with 
theirs ; also, that the French Brest and 
Cherbourg fleets had joined company, and 
attacked our Channel squadron with a 
much superior force. My old friend and I 
grasped each other's hands at parting, 

and I remember how the gravity of the 

F 



70 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

occasion wrung, even from our cold 
English lips, some words of warmth, as 
we spoke of our dear old country's straits. 

I at once ordered my hoat to be 
launched, and the men hauled her out to 
our anchor; steam was soon got up, the 
fire having been already lighted. I had 
stationed my men at their different duties, 
and exercised them daily at gun drill. 

We had nothing in the boat but our 
ammunition, coal, and two days' provis- 
ions. The shot, grape, and schrapnel 
shell, took up a good deal of room ; the 
iron rifle plates were not yet fixed, they 
hung outside the boat by lanyards, could 
be shipped in a minute, and would protect 
the men from musketry, but not from 
round shot, shell, or grape. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 71 

In smooth water we steamed about 
eight knots, and with a powerful 
rudder were able to turn very quickly. 
We did not offer much mark, and had 
water-tight compartments to the height 
of two feet six inches from the keel; 
for the rest we were an open boat, with a 
gun in the bows on a slide, and a mast 
and sail, which we slung outside the 
gunwale when not in use. Our funnel 
was low ; we were painted grey, with the 
number 66 in black on the bows. 

We steamed slowly out, and it was 
singular to see the once crowded highway 
of the world deserted and silent. The 
lights green, red, and bright, by which 
we should have been surrounded in peace 
time, were now nowhere to be seen. The 



72 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

night wore on, and the men had wrapped 
themselves in their blankets, and were 
asleep, except the steersman and look- 
out. 

My thoughts were too much engaged, 
and too painful, to allow me to feel 
drowsy for some time, but after I had 
ordered the engines to be stopped, the 
stillness, acting on my over-wrought 
senses, soon sent me off into a snooze. 
I woke up in a very short time, and 
found the mist had changed into a thick 
fog. I went ahead again, to put the boat 
in the position she must have lost by the 
tide, and there stopped, the fog being as 
thick as ever. I soon dropped off again, 
but my mind was too excited to rest, and 
I remember dreaming horribly, one of 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 73 

those harassing dreams, where you think 
that everyone is against you, and that 
some dreadful catastrophe is impending. 
I woke up suddenly with the idea that 
some great monster was panting and 
breathing close to me ; at the same 
moment, the look-out hailed me in a low 
voice, and drew my attention to a curious 
sound. The panting, breathing, throbbing 
sound of my dream was still in my ears. 
I was awake, and there was no doubt 
about it, that coming out of the fog was 
the sound of steamers paddles and 
screws flap, flap, going easy. 

I ordered the engineer to stand by. 
The sound came on, and seemed all round 
us. I heard distant voices hailing, but 
could not make out what was said. I 



74 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

ordered the men to stand to their arms, 
but to make no noise. The engines were 
moved slowly to keep way on, and be 
ready for any action. The vessels were 
evidently standing in shore. 

It might be our own fleet from the 
Scheldt, or the French fleet from the 
opposite coast, or the Germans, though 
not so likely, as they had been heard of 
on the East coast. 

Flap, flap went the screws, the vessels 
coming on very slowly, and careful not 
to foul each other. I could, of course, 
have stood in shore at full speed, and 
given the alarm, but if these were our 
own vessels it would be a false alarm. 
At the same time, I knew that to find 
out for certain I must get in the middle 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 75 

of them, and had I the right to risk the 
capture of my hoat ? As these thoughts 
passed rapidly through my mind, my 
course was decided for me, by the dark 
form of a vessel looming through the 
fog fifty yards off. I took the helm and 
stopped the engines, told the engineer to 
be careful as to noise, and awaited the 
result, with my nerves strung to the 
utmost. 

The vessel passed without observing 
us. She appeared to be a gun-boat, and 
a man in the chains was heaving the 
lead. Another passed on our other side 
we were still unseen. Then we heard 
the flapping louder and louder; some- 
times the steam blowiog off, as if a vessel 
had stopped; sometimes a hail. What 



76 THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

language? I could not make out; a general 
hail is much the same in all tongues. 

The fog was too thick to make out 
much, and I could only see one vessel at 
a time, and then very indistinctly ; every 
minute or two we had to move ahead to 
get out of the way. The look-out man 
reported in a loud whisper, " Ship right 
a-head ! " I gave the word, " Go on easy," 
and slipped across her bows. I then 
stopped, determined to have a good look 
at her. She was a large merchant 
steamer, but seemed full of men ; leads- 
men were heaving the lead, and orders 
were given to the helmsman and look- 
outs. In what language? not English 
certainly. I listened again, not French, 
I believed. I almost wished they would 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 77 

hail me, to determine the point. However, 
she passed on, towing astern some large 
boats and harges. Just as I had com- 
pleted her survey, another vessel loomed 
close to us on the other bow. To avoid 
her, I had to turn a-head once more ; only 
a few revolutions, and we stopped 
again. We only just cleared her, and 
did not escape unperceived, being hailed at 
once in German. The word was passed 
aft in a sharp military manner ; and again 
come the hail, this time in very fair 
English, louder, and accompanied by 
some order. A rifle was fired at us, 
followed instantly by a volley. At the 
first hail, I at once gave the order to go 
a-head, full speed. I knew our only 
chance was to make for the shore at all 



78 THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

risks, and go past them all ; they would 
not dare to fire in such a fog, for fear of 
hitting each other, and could not give 
chase for fear of collisions ; besides, it 
would be very difficult for them to make 
us out, and they could only communicate 
by voice. I ordered the men to keep 
down in the boat, and we pushed on for 
the land at full speed, being hailed and 
fired at by three vessels. 'The leading 
vessels were only going about three 
knots, so I passed them as if they had 
been at anchor. The gun-boat gave chase 
for a short distance, and fired rifles at us 
for some time, but were evidently afraid 
to fire cannon on account of giving the 
alarm. 

We altered course two or three times. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 79 

and she soon gave up the pursuit, and lost 
sight of us. I fancy she was a pioneer, and 
that her duty prevented her going too far. 

It was now getting on for morning, 
and I calculated that we were about six 
miles from shore. I felt that I ought to give 
the alarm at once, and yet I was afraid 
they might alter course, and felt most 
anxious to watch them. 

We were quite safe from pursuit ; the 
boat had been struck by a dozen bullets, 
but no harm done. 

The weather got clearer, and a light 
air from the northward began to dissipate 
the fog, when the look-out reported a 
boat on the starboard quarter, close to us. 
She was a steam launch, standing the 
same way as ourselves, and I concluded 



80 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

she was an enemy's boat in pursuit, and 
over-hauling us. 

I gave the word to prepare for action, 
ship rifle-plates, and load with grape. I 
liked the lively manner my orders were 
complied with, and giving up the helm to 
an old boatman, whose station it was in 
action, I stepped forward to see the gun 
laid for close quarters, and gave orders to 
hold on our course, to get the enemy as 
far away as possible, intending to await 
her attack, and then put the helm over, 
and let drive at her. However, taking 
another look at her with my night-glass, 
I made out the number 64 ; she 
belonged to our own division. We 
secured the gun, bore up, hailed her, and 
went alongside. 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 81 

My news was soon told. Her com- 
mander agreed to steam in at once and 
give the alarm, " Enemy standing for 
Worthing," while I would keep near them 
and watch their course. We compared 
notes as to the hearing of Worthing, and 
away he went with news which would 
flash like lightening through England, 
and stir the hearts of thousands to defend 
their country with their lives. 

We eased the engines, and then stop- 
ped to look out for the foe. 

The light wind from the coast, and 
the approach of daybreak, had driven the 
fog seaward; it hung like a heavy pall 
between us and the coming fleet. We 
could now see the land, so stepped her 
mast, and hoisted the danger flag in the 



82 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

hope of its being observed from the 
shore, towards which we were standing, 
having the enemy's fleet coming up to 
us in our rear. 

I was soon ahle to make out their hulls, 
and should have said, roughly, that there 
were upwards of a hundred sail, several 
gun-boats heading them, followed by 
transports, steam-tugs, and launches, 

some large men-of-war bringing up the 
rear. 

It was now broad day, and the sun 
rising out of the hanging mist; the sun 
which I felt would see one of the 
most eventful days my country had 
known; the sun which would set on 
England victorious, or on England en- 
slaved. 



THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 83 

We were soon joined by three other 
launches; they had heard the news from 
number 64 ; our danger flag had 
also been seen on shore. 

Our orders were to give way before a 
superior force, but to hover about in 
shoal water, and watch every opportunity 
to obstruct the landing. 

The day was now quite bright, the sun 
having entirely dispersed the mist, and 
we could see in the distance the smoke 
of our flotillas standing up from east- 
ward and westward. 

Meanwhile the enemy's gun-boats 
steamed in shore in two divisions, and 
formed two lines, facing east and west, 
thus leaving an open roadway for dis- 
embarking the troops. 



84 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

We could do nothing as yet, their gun- 
boats had heavy guns, and it was useless 
to play at long shot with our short 
howitzers. However, we went round in 
circles to distract their aim should they 
fire at us, and awaited our fast coming 
supports. 

In the meantime, the transports con- 
voyed to the space between the lines of 
their gun-boats ; and tugs were soon 
taking in tow strings of barges and flat 
bottomed boats, full of troops, and mak- 
ing for the shore. 

A few more launches, and one tug 
with a heavy gun now joined us ; thus 
reinforced, we made for the hostile gun- 
boats, which at once opened fire on us, 
though without effect, as we were moving 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 85 

on them. The long line of boats were 
still going towards the shore. How we 
longed to hreak through the gun-boats, 
and be amongst them, but the fire was 
too heavy. Our tug was struck several 
times, and the gun-boats giving chase, 
drove us back for a while. Much the 
same was going on the other side of the 
line of disembarkation, for our boats were 
also driven back. 

We saw the first division land, and had 
been able to do nothing. The tugs re- 
turned for another load, a considerable 
force being already disembarked. We 
soon heard firing on shore, and knew 
that our coast artillery had come up and 
were engaged. 

Our supports were now coming up in 

G 



86 THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHING. 

force armed steamers, as well as laun- 
ches and we were soon hotly engaged 
with the gun-heats on either side. The 
enemy's large vessels firing distant shots 
at us, hut not daring to come nearer in 
shore on account of the depth of water. 
All this time the boats were coming and 
going between the transports and the 
shore. 

Our steamers, being partially protected 
by the chain cables, had not suffered 
very severely, and the launches were so 
difficult to hit; but I saw one struck by a 
shot in the bows, which knocked her to 
pieces. She was close to us, and we 
steamed up in time to pick up six of her 
crew, one poor fellow with his arm shat- 
tered. A larger steamer had also received 



THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 87 

an awkward shot, which obliged her to 
make for the shore as fast as possible. 

I am only attempting to describe what 
I saw on my side, the East attack, fight- 
ing, of course, was going on westward of 
the line of gunboats as well. 

Our boats having continued to arrive, 
we now outnumbered the enemy's gun- 
boats, which began to give way, but their 
large vessels were feeling their way in, 
and firing whole broadsides. 

Our gallant Commodore now made the 

signal to the launches to force the line. 

In we went, creeping close in shore. 

We passed the end of the line, and found 

ourselves among the troop-laden boats 

and barges. 

I cannot describe the whole scene that 



88 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

now took place, it was too awful. The 
string of crowded boats swept with shot 
and shell, the tow cast off, and the drift- 
ing, helpless barges sinking with their 
living freight. 

The tugs having cast off the boats, 
&c., fired volleys of musketry at us, but 
we had our rifle-proof shields, and did 
not suffer much. 

The most horrible part was, that we 
went right over sinking boats, and could 
save no one. It was useless to attempt 
it. Hands were stretched out for help in 
vain. We had already six extra men, and 
four of our own poor fellows were 
stretched out wounded in the bottom of 
the boat. It was sickening to see the 
wild terror as we steamed up to a crowd- 



THE BATTLE OFF WOKTHJNG. 89 

ed boat, and drove shot and shell through 
her. The brave soldiers in her, helpless 
and unmanned by a form of attack they 
could not resist, called for quarter. 

What could we do ? Their own men 
lined the beach, and, except in some 
instances where they threw their arms 
overboard, and hoisted a white flag on a 
boat-hook, little quarter was possible. 
Indeed, the slaughter was terrific ; all 
landing was put an end to, for the ene- 
my's gun-boats turned on us, and covered 
those tugs which were able to tow their 
barges back to the ships. Our launches 
then directed their attention to the men 
who had landed, and by their fire drove 
them off the beach. 

The Commodore now broke through 



90 THE BATTLE OFF WOBTHING. 

the enemy's line, and, closing with sup- 
erior numbers, carried two gunboats by 
the board. 

We had been at work in this way for 
more than four hours, and the alarm had 
been given for, at least, seven, when 
word was passed that our men-of-war 
from Portsmouth were in sight. The 

lemy's frigates at once steamed towards 
them, and were soon hotly engaged. 

"We were now resting from our labours 
close in shore, endeavouring to repair our 
damages, bandaging up the wounds of 
those who were hit as well as we could, 
and keeping the enemy off the beach. 

Presently the signal went up, "Engage 
at closest quarters," and that signal was 
kept flying. . We steamed up at once, 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 91 

and, joining the Commodore, drove the 
gun-boats pell-mell among the transports, 
which had all weighed and shipped their 
anchors, and were making for the opposite 
coast, cutting adrift all their barges and 
flats. 

About this time a round shot struck 
one of our plates, and shivered it to 
pieces ; an iron splinter struck me side- 
ways on the head, stunning me for the 
moment ; it left me a scar which I have 
to this day. The old helmsman, who 
tiad steered the boat throughout with 
great skill and coolness, had the top of 
his head taken off at the same moment. 
We lost, out of a crew of seventeen men, 
including myself and an engineer, two 
killed and five wounded, besides the poor 



92 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

fellow we had picked up with his arm 
smashed. Our boat had been struck by 
two round shot and several grape, and 
was making a good deal of water, 
although we had plugged the holes as 
well as we could. The engines had also 
received some injury, and been stopped 
for repair. But oh ! the elation and joy 
that we felt. The victory was complete. 
The enemy were driven back by our fleet, 
their transports in full flight, without the 
means of landing anywhere, and, I 
believe, without the will. 

Our loss was very considerable. Seven 
launches had been sunk, with most of 
their crew : four armed gun-vessels met 
the same fate. We had captured five 
gun-boats and sunk them, and could cer- 



THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 93 

tainly have afforded more serious loss, for 
was not our country safe. Every child 
knows the history of our glorious struggle. 
How another division of the enemy were 
beaten off our East coast, after landing 
about 15,000 men. How a Erench 
flotilla never reached our shores, being 
met by the same flying squadron who 
had gained the victory off Brest. The 
forces which succeeded in landing near 
Harwich and Worthing 15,000 in the 
first case, and 7,000 in the last were 
attacked by superior numbers, and sur- 
rendered next day. 

On the news of our victory off Worth- 
ing, the men-of-war at all the eastern 
ports put to sea, and captured several 
transports. The total loss experienced 



91 THE BATTLE OFF WORTHING. 

by the enemy was very heavy, at least 
50,000 in killed, wounded, and prisoners. 

I need not tell you the story of the 
remainder of the war, how the robbers- 
quarrelled over their continental spoils, 
and how England, safe from invasion^ 
turned her immense resources to account y 
and once more became the arbitress of 
Europe. But it was more permanent 
important to our national greatness, 
because we profitted by our lesson, and 
resolved never more to sink into that 
slough of false security which had so 
nearly proved our destruction. 

We had no ambition to be a strong 
aggressive power, but we had learnt that 
weakness was culpable, because it tempted 
the strong, and that a great country 



THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 95 

could not afford to be indifferent to the 
doings of her neighbours, or refuse to be 
conscious of her vast responsibilities, while 
individually we learnt that men must 
make personal sacrifices for a great object, 
and that no duty was greater than defence 
of our native land. As long as the 
memory of this national shock lasts, 
England can never be in such peril again, 
for looking back at our hair-breadth 
escape, and contemplating, only for one 
moment, the shame and deep degrada- 
tion which so nearly overtook us, tears of 
gratitude rise to my eyes, and my heart 
glows again to think that the despoiler 
has not robbed us of our birthright, and 
that we can still glory in the name of 
Englishmen. 



96 THE BATTLE OFF WOETHING. 

Listen to the bells, it is midnight ! 
the century is dying ! is dead ! 

King out the old, ring in the new, 
King happy bells across the snow, 
The year is going, let him go ; 
Ring out the false, ring in the true. 



THE LONDON LITERARY SOCIETY, 376, STRAND, LONDON. 



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